The Cleveland Cavaliers. LeBron James. The end of a 52 year championship drought. These phrases, among others, have been circulating the news on every platform for over a week now, and I'm sure the world is getting tired of hearing about it by now.
...Except for Clevelanders. Or anyone from northeast Ohio, for that matter. Every word we hear about the recent NBA Championship is music to our ears. After so many years of watching our teams in every sport fall short of success, we have finally tasted victory, and nothing is sweeter.
"I'm from Canton. It's just south of Cleveland," I would admit to those who asked where I called home. In recent years, that wasn't a source of pride for me. In northeast Ohio, there isn't much to look at besides corn fields and cows, so we turn to the game to entertain us.
But the same people who asked me where I came from would laugh when I claimed the Cleveland sports teams.
I have been a Cleveland sports fan all my life. I remember going to my first Cavaliers game and sitting in the very top row of the arena but loving every minute nonetheless. I remember freezing my tiny butt off at a Browns game one snowy Sunday afternoon. I remember munching on a hotdog at an Indians game and swearing it tasted better than any other hotdog I had ever had.
But I also remember heartbreak. I remember watching the Browns lose seasons year after year. I remember watching former Indians go on to shine in other cities. And most vividly, I remember LeBron's infamous Decision.
I felt the anger of all Cleveland fans when our King left us for South Beach. I rooted passionately against him when he went to the Finals with Miami, thinking he didn't deserve a championship anywhere but Cleveland. But like most, I forgave him when he returned to his hometown and promised to bring us a ring.
But he fell short. Even with a great team by his side, it wasn't enough to beat Steph Curry's Warriors for the title in 2015. This loss, along with the other Cleveland teams' crushing defeats, is what came to mind when people heard where I was from.
But not anymore.
With a championship came a new sense of pride in where I'm from and the teams I love. I can share my story of leaping to my feet with my friends and family after the final buzzer of Game 7. I saw Kyrie's three pointer that sealed Golden State's fate. I saw LeBron's unbelievable block. And I felt the euphoria of the win Cleveland hadn't seen in over half a century.
I am proud beyond words of the historic comeback the Cavs made to overtake the reigning champs and NBA MVP. I am proud of LeBron's fulfilled promise to bring us home a ring. I am proud of the record-setting 1.3 million fans at the victory parade through downtown.
"In Northeast Ohio, nothing is given. Everything is earned," LeBron said when explaining his return to Cleveland.
No one gave the Cavaliers the victory. The fought through a 3-1 deficit to a team with one of the best records in history. They fought through doubt and defeat. This championship was earned.
I am proud of victory. I am proud of resilience. I am proud of hard work and beating the odds. I am proud of Cleveland.